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Book Review: Handler tries to handle South Africa

Layout 1Michael Saakyan
Book Editor

After having ACL surgery for a bad knee, the best thing to do is take plenty of time to relax, stay off your feet and maybe work from home.

But for E! Network’s Chelsea Handler, knee rehab consists of planning a safari in South Africa with plenty of friends, booze and Xanax.

“Uganda Be Kidding Me” is the new memoir of the “Chelsea Lately” host.

Revolving around her summer 2012 trip to South Africa with six of her close friends and one bad knee, Handler reveals the crazy antics she and her friends get involved with in South Africa after pounding several Bloody Marys at 6 a.m.

Handler first started on television as one of the pranksters on Oxygen channel’s “Girls Behaving Badly,” a reality show where a group of women would prank unsuspecting passer-bys with hilarious hijinks.

Handler’s comedic skills led her to have her own television talk show on E!, “Chelsea Lately.”

University of La Verne alumnus Ross Mathews has made frequent guest appearances on the show, eventually landing him his own show called “Hello Ross.”

“Uganda Be Kidding Me” is the fifth in a series of autobiographical books by Handler. including “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea,” which is a collection of humorous essays that hit the New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List in 2008.

Planning

“Uganda Be Kidding Me” begins with Handler asking her close friends to go on safari in South Africa with her during the summer of 2012. Everyone seems distraught to leave the air conditioned comforts of Los Angeles to the uncomfortably dry weather of South Africa. But when a star of a popular show wants something, she gets it.

Among the group of friends Handler has persuaded to accompany on her safari include her close friend Shelly, who she kept referring to as Lesbian Shelly; Sue, the only one of the group to be in a relationship with a man named Chuck, who Handler does not care for at all; Simone, Handler’s sister and closest person to a mother she has; Hannah, the Jerry Gergich of the group, somehow messing up the trip by saying something stupid; and her cousin Molly, who is the youngest of the group and Handler refers to her as the “whiter version of Tyler Perry’s Madea. Large and in charge.”

Six very different women who shared a common bond: The love of getting wasted.

Vacationing

The trip to South Africa would last a little over a week and Handler believed it would contribute a great deal to leaving the hectic lifestyle of Los Angeles to be at one with nature and wild animals.

Handler took many pictures on the trip which made it in the book, giving the reader a great opportunity to get a glimpse of what a real African safari looks like.

After a 48-hour plane ride, the women arrived to a private game reserve called Londolozi in South Africa where they were greeted with awful tasting margaritas in martini glasses. Their tour guide Rex was an attractive man with light ginger hair who drove the women wild, except for Shelly of course.

The first safari ride was mainly hippos getting along with crocodiles, proving one animal does not fear the other as they are both ferocious beasts that can kill anything in their way.

The driver of the truck was named Life and was forced to maneuver across many African impalas during the safari.

Unfortunately for the women, not a single lion was around to gruesomely attack one of the impalas as the women had hoped to see on their trip to South Africa. The safari sounded like a school bus full of teenagers screaming observations over one another which caused Rex the tour guide to get annoyed.

The following morning the safari ride had Bloody Marys, mimosas and champagne available in the truck because as Rex said, “We’ve realized it’s better for you women to have a little buzz (for the safari)” and that they were the “first functioning alcoholic women” he had ever met.

Handler says the real reason Rex included alcohol in every ride was because his buzz from alcohol would tend to wear off during the afternoon and he would rather be drunk if he had to deal with loud women and wild animals.

On the fourth day, Handler was not feeling up to yelling at wild animals with the women so she faked ill and remained in her room to get a massage. Too embarrassed to alert the masseur that the 90-minute massage went by too fast, Handler does what any normal comedian would do, she unleashed her inner Lucy Ricardo and puts on a pair of large sunglasses and a baseball cap so she could pretend to be another person as she gets another massage. A trick which ultimately fails.

During the safari in Londolozi, Handler begins to feel an attraction toward Rex but is unsure if the feeling is mutual.

By the fifth day the women must be on their way to the next safari located between South Africa and Botswana called Camp Dumbo. The women, especially Handler, hate to leave Rex but know they must be on their way.

Camp Dumbo is no way like Londolozi and the tour guide’s nothing like Rex. Corbin replaced Rex as the tour guide in Camp Dumbo, but had none of the attractive looks that Rex had, according to Handler. “He was fat, in his fifties, and not fun,” Handler complains. The atrocious stink of his breath would make anyone gag from reading the chapter on Camp Dumbo.

But Camp Dumbo sounded a lot better on paper than actually experiencing it.

The safari trip included rides on elephants, playing with lions and feeding hyenas which sound fun, but not for Handler who describes it as “a zoo for slow adults.”

The women hated Camp Dumbo from the first day. They had gotten use to watching the wild animals roam around free but at Camp Dumbo they were secluded to their cages and only allowed out to entertain guests and kicked in the gut if they did not obey. Animal cruelty, even with large amounts of booze, was unsettling for the women but what could they do to get out of there? Would they really never see Rex ever again?

Reviewing

“Uganda Be Kidding Me” was an interesting read but the photography is far more interesting than the stories. Handler should have a brochure to Alcoholics Anonymous for anyone who finishes the book. Each and every page involved at least one type of alcoholic beverage which would make any reader begin to have cravings.

The book is also misleading with the title having Uganda in it. One would assume Handler took a trip to Uganda in 2012 during the events with the invisible children and Joseph Kony but it is merely a play on words.

“Uganda Be Kidding Me” does give a glimpse at what going on safari is like and sounds like something everyone should do sometime in their life. But reading “Uganda Be Kidding Me” did not measure up to be a book someone should read sometime in their life, earning three out of five stars.

Handler is currently on tour promoting the book throughout the United States in various bookstores and talk shows such as “Piers Morgan Live” and “Ronan Farrow Daily.”

“Uganda Be Kidding Me” is available now at major retail book stores and Amazon retailing at $27.

Michael Saakyan can be reached at murad.saakyan@laverne.edu.

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